Sabres need points vs. Habs in pursuit of playoff spot
Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 4:04 PMCANADIENS (28-32-13) at SABRES (34-29-10)
TV: MSG-Buffalo (HD), RDS (HD)
Montreal 4-3-3; Buffalo 6-2-2
This is the sixth and final meeting between these Northeast Division rivals. Three of the previous five matchups have gone past regulation, although Buffalo has yet to lose in regulation this season against Montreal, posting a 4-0-1 record.
While Montreal is hoping to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement, Buffalo is looking to continue its unlikely march toward the postseason. The Canadiens haven't lost in regulation in two weeks, going 3-0-3 in their last six, but it's the Sabres whose play has been giving their fans fits. Mere points out of the East's eighth and final playoff spot, four of their last five games have gone beyond regulation.
Following a 2-1-1 road trip that ended with a 3-2 overtime loss in Buffalo, the Canadiens have managed to salvage a points in the final stretch in a disappointing season. With a 4-2-3 record in March, Montreal is mostly looking to play spoiler, as the majority of its remaining games are against Eastern Conference teams battling for playoff seeding.
That wasn't necessarily the case Saturday night against the Islanders, another team looking to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement. After Aaron Palushaj
opened the scoring against the Isles with his first career goal, the Canadiens fell behind 2-1 on goals from Mark Streit and Franz Nielsen. Louis Leblanc
's third-period marker tied the game, thanks mostly to a great pass from P.K. Subban
, but Josh Bailey would get the winner in the sixth round of the shootout, giving the visiting Islanders the win and Montreal their second straight loss.
In their late-season run toward a playoff spot, Buffalo has managed to earn valuable points, going 3-0-2 in its last five games. But in a League where three-point games can hurt a team like the Sabres, who remain on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference's top eight, Buffalo is hoping to earn more regulation wins.
The Sabres were able to get one of those important regulation wins Monday night in Tampa Bay, thanks to two goals from Jason Pominville and Marcus Foligno, to cruise to a 7-3 win over the Lightning. Drew Stafford's three-point night helped lead the Sabres to their most prolific offensive outburst of the season.
After their game against the Canadiens, the Sabres will have to get some big wins over sizeable competition. In their final two weeks of the season, they'll have games against top Eastern Conference teams like the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, and Bruins, against whom they've gone 2-2-1 this season.
Subban has 9 points in his last nine games for Montreal while Erik Cole
has 5 points in his last five games. … For the Sabres, Tyler Ennis has 4 goals and 5 assists in his current five-game point streak while Foligno has 5 goals and 2 assists in five games since being called up from Rochester.
Injury Report: Brian Gionta
(bicep surgery), Travis Moen
(upper body), and Raphael Diaz
(lower body) are on IR for the Habs, while Scott Gomez
(concussion) and Tomas Kaberle
(upper body) are questionable. … For the Sabres, Jochen Hecht (concussion) is on IR while Matt Ellis (knee) is out and Nathan Gerbe is questionable after missing the win in Tampa Bay with an upper-body injury.
With two weeks to go, every indication is that Pominville will lead the Sabres in goals this season, which would mark the first time that Thomas Vanek hasn't been the team leader in tallies since the 2005-06 campaign, Vanek's first with the Sabres. In his seventh season with Buffalo and first as its captain, Pominville has already established a career high for assists in a season and is two points shy of tying his career high of 68 points.
Wednesday should see the return of Tyler Myers, who has fully served a three-game suspension following a questionable hit that took place March 12 against these same Montreal Canadiens. The recipient of that hit, Scott Gomez
, has not played since the collision.